From my experience, and my experience alone, I find that people who want to become more environmentally friendly and conscience often look to the new gadgets that are pretty and sustainable as a starting place. There are some issues with this, like for instance, buying a new bamboo toothbrush only to throw away a perfectly good plastic one before the end of its life. But a bigger issue with this is that I find many people don’t see the changes they need to make beyond material items, when really, people need to start focusing on their behaviours when they are on an eco-friendlier path.
For instance, picture yourself walking with a disposable coffee cup in Toronto – once you’re done drinking your coffee, you see a recycling bin and throw your cup into that bin. The problem is, only the lid and sleeve are able to be recycled. The disposable coffee cups have a waxy inner liner that makes them garbage, not a recyclable item. Or, you go pick-up a nice healthy lunch for yourself, often you will get your lunch in a nice brown compostable box (I’m thinking about a Caesar salad I love from iQ!), the truth is – that box is garbage and cannot be part of the compost or recycling bin in Toronto, but most of us throw them in the recycling bin anyways. My point is – we can carry the pretty blue or the pretty white reusable coffee cups, but until we start focusing on ensuring we know the proper way to dispose of our waste, we’re really not going to be making much change.
The following chart from the Energy & Environment Department within the University Health Network outlines common waste items and whether or not they are recyclable within the University Health Network, showcasing how stringent recycling programs can be in general:
One very interesting and important piece of information that I have recently learned is how to identity which plastics are recyclable and which ones are not. This changes city to city and province to province. Plastics are measured on a scale from one to seven, and this scale indicates that items recyclability. In Toronto, some items that you might think are recyclable actually are not. A blog I follow, Out of the Bin, posted the following article that I highly recommend everyone read: plastic by number & how to sort it accordingly. I hope you all take the time to look at the information in that article because it is very clearly and thoughtfully explained!
I’ll leave you with this – we can buy all the aesthetically pleasing items we want, but until we learn how to properly dispose of waste, our problems surrounding the environment and climate change are not going to go away.